- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2016

Muhammad Ali, considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time, died Friday in Phoenix. He was 74.

Ali had been in a hospital in the Arizona capital since Thursday for what a hospital spokesman said was a “respiratory issue.” Ali famously had battled Parkinson’s disease since 1984.

Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, Ali began boxing as a young man, quickly amassing an amazing record in the ring — and attaining a near-mythic status for his outsize, boastful personality. 

Ali won the gold medal in boxing at the Summer Olympics in Rome in 1960, knocking down three-time European champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski to win the gold medal. He was just 18 at the time.

After turning pro, in 1964 Ali knocked out Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion. 

At the museum named for him on the banks of the Ohio River, a display shows how, even after he was famous, Ali often returned home to Louisville only to be met with poor treatment at the hands of the racist policies of the Jim Crow South. He joined the Nation of Islam and was converted by Malcolm X in 1964, changing his name to Muhammad Ali.

In 1974, Ali faced off against George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, at what became known as “The Rumble in the Jungle,” with Ali ultimately emerging victorious. The lead-up to to the historic bout was chronicled in the documentary, “When We Were Kings.”

Ali infamously refused to sign up for the draft during the height of the Vietnam War, claiming conscientious objector status. He was convicted of draft evasion, but the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

Ali won the heavyweight title two more times before retiring in 1981. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, Ali filled his time as an advocate for awareness of the degenerative disease and also worked tirelessly against racism and social injustice, both in the U.S. and abroad — notably in South Africa. 

Ali was tapped by the U.S. Olympic team to light the torch during the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta in 1996. Visibly shaking from the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Ali lit the cauldron to open the Games, a testament to his spirit as an athlete, a humanitarian and a warrior for equality for all.

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